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Maxwell Centre

Event Type: 
Maxwell plus - for events co-organised by the Maxwell programme

“Luck and hard work- four decades of innovation”

Dr John Saffell- Alphasense

The joint NanoDTC-Impulse-Maxwell Innovation Seminar Series has a series of brilliant speakers who are at different stages in their Innovation and Entrepreneurship journey.


You graduate and then go either into academia or into industry. Do you join a secure company and grow within the organisation, or join a start-up and innovate your way to success? I chose the latter in 1979 and again in 1997.

The first company, Solomat, was founded by two scientists; we morphed from a materials analysis company into portable instruments for indoor air quality and water quality. We struggled and grew, with financial constraints limiting growth. The second company, Alphasense, started life differently. Well funded and with experienced management, we were able to develop innovative sensors rapidly with help from UK Universities. These two stories each affected the two technical groups differently. In both companies we were dedicated, but the difference in luck and finance affected us personally and in our approach to innovation and company structure.

The landscape has also changed in four decades. Whereas digital opportunities opened up for the first time in the ‘80s and ‘90s, digital innovation is now more lucrative but also more crowded, more controlled and more global. Innovation in business or technology is now team focused with global markets and bigger budgets; project planning is replacing garage technology.


About the Seminar Series

This series of seminars happens monthly and speakers will present their ideas and experiences on how innovation impacts their endeavours.

We have a varied list of speakers, from academics turned in to entrepreneurs all the way to established companies.

The format is a 45 minute talk, followed by Q&A, and drinks and nibbles immediately after.

Attendance is free but spaces are limited so do register today.


Data Protection

We collect information about you when you register to attend the Innovation Seminar Series. You can find details on how we handle personal information at

The data we hold for this purpose is very limited (contact details: name, email address, name of the organisation you are affiliated with; sometimes also telephone number and address).

The information you provide will be used to process your booking, and contact you regarding your participation. We may also contact you to undertake post-event evaluation and provide marketing information about events and services offered through the Maxwell Centre, University of Cambridge. All marketing communications will incorporate an option to opt-out of receiving further communications.

Please note that we are managing registration for this event via Eventbrite. Eventbrite is a third-party service that is not owned or managed by the University of Cambridge. You may wish to review Eventbrite’s terms and conditions and privacy policy as we do not accept any responsibility or liability for their policies.

12 February 2020 @ 16:15

Small Lecture Theatre

Department of Physics

Please book your space here:


Wednesday, 12 February, 2020 - 16:15 to 18:30